This Parenting Life: Time

My children’s Christmas lists are ambitious to say the least. Nothing wrong with aiming high, I’m all for it. However, it was with the highest optimism that last year my daughter wrote out 7 pages of things she’d wanted Santa to bring her.

Even my eldest, who is usually quite modest in his wants, this year seemed to really get the bit between his teeth and rocked up with a goodly selection of items. I should add quickly that no, she didn’t get 7 pages worth of presents, barely one third of one page made the cut. Was she, or her brothers, disappointed? No, not really. I secretly think she may have forgotten that she’d written it. She had started it in October and an 8 year old’s attention can easily wane.

I think, and this is only speaking for my three, that they enjoy the process of coming up with their wish list. They enjoy imagining receiving all these items. The searching, the decision making, the evaluation of which one will make the list or not. What they imagine Santa would get for them. Their rich imaginations conjuring up present after present.

He was so excited that he was a little glassy eyed and teary

Recently, I was out to dinner with friends and one of the topics of conversation centred around what parents reportedly spend on their children at Christmas. One gave the example that a friend was spending in the region of £900/$1100 on gifts for her children (a debt she said she would be paying off over the next 10-12 months). I shared with them that I’ve now spent 11 Christmases with my eldest and though he was overjoyed and happy with the presents he got. There was something that touched him even more when I agreed to finally download Pokemon Go.

Whilst this may sound funny (and it is in some ways), what really struck me was how happy he was. He was so excited that he was a little glassy eyed and teary. Once I’d agreed to also go out with him so he could teach me what he knew, he was even more excited.

As I say, I’ve seen him excited before but clearly this meant even more to him, the game, the sharing and the time together. This package appeared to have even greater value to him. This brought to mind, and the reason I’m sharing it with you, what children really value. No. Not that you download their latest app. But your time. Your attention. Their willingness to invite you into their world and actually want you to be a part of it. Is them saying, “I want you to experience what I experience. I want you to feel the same excitement I do”.

Engagement, interest and involvement have no price

I downloaded the game and we went out for a half hour wandering around catching Pokemon and getting Pokemon balls. I stood in the cold as he battled at a gym (I was only a level three) before heading back.

Yes, he’ll get some gifts he asked for, and a few I would like him to have. But from him it seemed clear to me that what he valued, what he cherished most was my time, my attention. These aren’t as easily done as ordering something online and have it gift wrapped. Engagement, interest and involvement have no price. You can’t buy them. They are something that you give from within you. I think if any gift is worth giving and receiving then, I believe it’s this one.

Post Script: I’ve now been teed up to play Minecraft.

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About the Author

Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.

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